jewish community studies

If You Ask, We Answer: Part 1 – Higher Education

When people ask us what we do, one of the things we often say is, “we answer questions for our clients.”  And inevitably, we’re then asked, “What kinds of questions?  Why are the asking this of you?”

Frankly, this is why we’re in business.  Our daily challenge is to assist our clients in taking the management issues they regularly wrestle with, and shaping them into questions that we can then use in our research.  We gather information, with these questions as a backdrop.  The answers are enlightening and provide clear paths to follow with strategic next steps.

Let’s look at the higher education sector as an example.  We’re asked to solve issues involving admissions, enrollment, programming, curriculum, and community relationships.  Here are just some of the questions our clients have asked us to help answer through our work.

If we build it, will they enroll?
It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build and launch a new program, and administrators want to know what they’ll need to do to make it successful before they invest the time and money into its creation.

How will workforce trends impact our programming/curriculum?
More colleges and universities seek to offer programs that teach students skills for jobs that are available in the local and regional market.  This may lead to offering more non-credit and certificate courses.

How can we better serve our surrounding community?
Most universities have moved past the traditional “town and gown relations” model and have started to really take a look at what programs and services could be provided to make their institutions an asset to the local community.

Why didn’t students enroll?
Knowing why an institution didn’t make the final cut is as important as understanding what put the institution in the initial consideration set.

What’s the best way to deliver our courses?
Full time, part time, online, in person, and hybrids are all successful ways to deliver courses.  Clients often ask what the right mix is for their students.

Will changes to our curriculum be viewed positively by prospective employers of our students?
We’re proponents of understanding how employers perceive recent graduates… and we often provide insights about what’s lacking in today’s graduates.  We now know that soft skills, such as work ethic, emotional intelligence, and communications skills are highly important.  Educators want to know how to build curricula to prepare students for today’s workforce.

How do we manage our brand reputation (especially) after a crisis?
After an institution receives unflattering headlines in the (social) media, savvy institutions look to measure the impact on an institution’s brand to prepare to take the steps that will help fix the situation. 

What is the value of a college degree to prospective students and their parents?
In the past, quality learning, being prepared for the future, and “getting a job” have all been touted as the value of a college education.  But times are changing, as are the many reasons why a college degree is important.

Should we be offering interdisciplinary programs and courses?
As consultants, we just want to emphatically say “yes”!  But, the value of research is to understand what’s important to the market (prospective students, employers) and leverage what we learn to help build a valuable interdisciplinary focus.

What’s the best way to partner with community colleges as a funnel for admissions to four year institutions?
One community college in our area took a controversial approach to funneling students to a four year college – and we even wrote a blog post about it.

Our research can help higher education clients explore all of these questions and more.  Give us a call or shoot us an email and let us know what management issues your institution faces.

In future posts, we’ll explore the questions that clients in our other sectors (healthcare, mission-based/non-profit) have asked us to answer – stay tuned!

To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, please contact Elizabeth Foley [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.


community college - boxing gloves

Community College & Parent University: What’s the Optimal Relationship?

Just a few weeks ago, reported that Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC), a community college, would no longer permit on its campus any advertising, display of logos, or collateral materials from colleges/universities other than Rowan-branded institutions.  This angered and disappointed 4-year college presidents and administrators across the region.  [See link below at bottom of our post]

The article, and this issue, piqued an interest in The Melior Group’s research consultants, as Melior often works with colleges and universities on initiatives including strategic directions, recruitment efforts, and marketing and communications.

Members of the Melior team had a difference of opinion after reading this article. Vice Presidents Elizabeth Foley and Liz Cohen, both of whom provide strategic vision, branding, and development in the education sector, decided to square off in a point/counterpoint in response to this issue. It’s time for a battle of Elizabethan proportion!

Point: It’s about time colleges started to address the issue of competition in order to survive (Elizabeth Foley)

Community colleges are traditionally a pipeline to move students into a 4-year school.  So, it baffles me that anyone is surprised that a Rowan-branded community college would want to encourage its students to go to Rowan to complete a 4-year degree.  From a business perspective this makes a lot of sense.  If you can offer your customers (i.e., students) what they want, why send them elsewhere or promote other institutions when first and foremost you want them to consider your university?  That would be tantamount to walking into the New Balance store on Walnut Street for sneakers and the sales clerk offering directions to a Nike or Adidas store as additional shopping options.

While it was nice that RCBC allowed many different 4-year colleges to present information to its students via advertising and college fairs in the past, it’s the times they are a changin’ (thank you Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan).  Higher ed is facing a number of long term challenges, which we’ve discussed in other blog posts [see links below].

The population estimates for the coming decades are not pretty:  there will be fewer students entering 4-year institutions as the next decade progresses.  Most colleges are competing for students these days; Rowan is no different.  What better way to matriculate students than to cultivate them right from Rowan-branded community colleges?

Community colleges serve a great purpose.  And the innovations that have come from Rowan University (such as its 3+1 program, which enables students to spend 3 years at one of the two Rowan University-affiliated community colleges and just 1 year at the University as they complete coursework for their bachelor’s degree) in order to attract students to pursue a 4-year degree, in all likelihood were developed knowing that the competition for students will only increase because the prospective college student pool will continue to decrease.

The President of RCBC, Mr. Paul Drayton, censures 4-year colleges in the article for their inability to adapt:

“Drayton accused four-year schools of wanting to maintain a status quo despite a shifting higher education landscape. ‘It’s changed because those same colleges are too expensive. They brought this upon themselves, right? So they, during the worst economic recession in modern history, increased tuition … and so parents and students and others are talking about this.’”

The rising costs of attending college are putting that goal out of reach for many prospective students.  The changing economy is altering the face of higher education as we know it.  Mr. Drayton brings up valid points about the costs to attend some of their former “partner” institutions.  The RCBC-to-Rowan University pipeline makes smart economic sense for students looking to get a 4-year degree at an affordable price.

In the article, some administrators from some of the (former) partner institutions said that the options available to students about transferring to a 4-year school would be limited, implying that students wouldn’t be aware of the other institutions at all.

However, based on Melior’s area research studies, we’ve learned the institutions referred to in this article have some of the highest top of mind awareness ratings in the region.  The idea that students won’t know about those institutions because they’re not allowed to advertise at RCBC is condescending to students – who are savvier and smarter than we’ve seen in decades.  And, I would argue that students who don’t know how to use a search engine in order to research area degree programs shouldn’t yet be attending college.

Ultimately, the concern from the 4-year colleges is misplaced.  Instead of being angered about RCBC’s new policy, perhaps they should be using their own resources and devising innovative programs and creating strategies that will help attract their desired target students to their institutions.

Counterpoint: What was RCBC Thinking? (Liz Cohen)

The barriers that Rowan University has erected to limit other 4-year colleges’ on-campus outreach to RCBC students are unfair, short-sighted, and completely contrary to the spirit and values of public education.

The RCBC mission is as follows:

Rowan College at Burlington County transforms lives by delivering innovative, high-quality and affordable educational experiences in an accessible and diverse environment.

As stated above, RCBC aims to “transform lives.”  For many students, that transformation can happen with a 2-year degree, but some students may aspire to a transformation that requires a 4-year degree or beyond.  In keeping with its mission, RCBC’s first priority should be to support the dreams of its students, and as such, it is obligated to open as many doors, and provide as many opportunities, as it can.

Rowan University counters any criticism of its new restrictions by saying that of course RCBC students are free to explore, and eventually attend, any and all 4-year institutions.  But by not giving other 4-year colleges and universities the opportunity to visit and recruit on the RCBC campus, Rowan is ignoring the reality of many RCBC students, whose lives are filled with classes, part- or full-time employment, and family obligations.  On-campus visits from 4-year colleges and universities can make it just a little more convenient for RCBC’s striving, hard-working students to learn about their options.

Frederick Keating, the President of Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) – a “sister” community college that is also part of Rowan – disagrees with RCBC’s approach.  He states:

“We don’t see any jeopardy, we don’t see any risk, we don’t see any kind of reason to be more restrictive in promoting opportunity…We’re here for [students], so you put everything out, we give them everything we can give them.  They will make the choice.”

Mr. Keating understands that Rowan University needs to take a positive approach to attracting students by offering them the best quality education for the cost – and not by making it more difficult for them to research alternatives.

Who is right?  Comment and let us know your thoughts!

To learn more about our work with higher ed, please contact
Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or
Liz Cohen at [email protected]/ 215-545-0054 x103. article:

Education-related Melior blog posts:

A mortarboard and book demonstrate the success of higher ed recruitment.

This Higher Ed Recruitment TV Ad Is Spot On

As a part of its We Rise campaign, a for-profit school seems to succeed where many non-profit universities struggle in higher ed recruitment. In a single thirty-second spot, the University of Phoenix addresses the major pain points impacting key demographics of a diverse group of audiences, many of whom institutions of higher learning find hard to reach.

Higher ed marketers are well aware that the “typical” college student has shifted from middle class teenagers with parents can afford to pay full tuition to include more atypical and diverse sets of student types. Many students are working full-time, have children and are cash strapped or sleep deprived. Others are returning veterans, first generation Americans or are struggling to care for family members in need.

In the ad, “If I Only Had A Brain” from The Wizard of Oz has been adapted for use in the new world of higher education where imagery and lyrics blend to portray the challenges experienced by students of all ages while simultaneously celebrating the characteristics that define success.

For students – the school implies that it values hard-working, resilient and dedicated applicants – and for potential employers – graduates are confident, tough and the type of people you can rely on. It’s a really smart concept.

This single TV ad successfully addresses what many fail to:

  • Multiple types of students: traditional aged, employed, older, veterans, caregivers, parents with kids and more
  • Negative sentiments: from critics who think a degree obtained from a for-profit institution isn’t a “real degree”
  • Employers: by implying that University of Phoenix graduates posses the qualities of success

It is easy to ignore advertising from for-profit institutions. They tend to take a beating in the higher ed world as critics claim the degrees do not hold the same value as those from more traditional not-for-profits.

But tell that to the employers we’ve talked to over the years. Many – admittedly not all – aren’t concerned about for-profit vs. non-profit, but they are concerned about new employees having the skills, experiences and characteristics needed to excel.

Admittedly, we haven’t yet seen the statistics to learn if inquiries have increased or if employers’ perceptions have become more favorable toward the University of Phoenix since this campaign started.  Based on our own research outcomes, employers seek graduates with real life experience who can juggle complexity, get the job done and confidentially handle challenges. We have found that they do indeed seek more than brains.

More Than Brains –


To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, please visit our Education page or contact Elizabeth Foley [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.

Trends and observations in higher ed

Trends and Challenges Impacting Higher Education

We recently spoke to the board of trustees of a university client about some of the trends and challenges impacting the education industry.  We talked about some of the marketing insights we’ve developed recently through our work with university clients and partners, and gave our observations of what’s been happening in the market.

Your competition has stepped up its marketing communications efforts…and those efforts can be seen in a variety of places. 

  • In the Philadelphia region, we’ve certainly seen the trend move from a simmer to a low boil in terms of marketing and advertising, not just from local institutions, but from up and down the East Coast. In fact, our recent edition of the Philadelphia Business Journal arrived with a gift — a glossy 100+ page “magazine” from High Point University in North Carolina touting its graduates and the academic features of the university.
  • Universities are looking for multiple ways to get the word out to prospective students, and we’re seeing not just overall branding efforts changing, but targeted marketing of specific programs (it’s not just the MBA anymore) and towards specific markets – both geographic and demographic.

Higher education audiences are savvier than ever.

  • We’ve learned that prospective students want to see outcomes (not data because they don’t understand how to interpret it) — stories they can see themselves in, specific examples of their possible future.
  • Prospective students and their parents want to know that their college education will lead to a “good job” after graduation. It’s incumbent on colleges to show this in stories and in data.
  • Information about colleges is coming to prospects from many sources, both traditional and non-traditional… and social media is changing the face of information delivery.

Social media continues to grow (and dominate)… and it’s not just Facebook.

  • Smart college marketers are meeting students “where they live” – online via a range of social media sites. A social media marketing strategy that includes your web presence is just as critical as a strategy for producing your print materials.  It’s time to find out what messages students want to hear about you on social media.
  • Mobile devices use to access college information continues to grow and includes video. Think about it:  the trends of screen sizes of our mobile devices over the past few years are actually getting bigger – and that’s to accommodate video.  One of our agency partners is convinced that within 5 years, everything on college websites will include video.

Branding is the buzzword dujour when higher ed professionals talk about marketing their institutions these days.

  • Remember that your “brand” is not your logo, the font or the color. And it’s not what you say about yourself.  IT’S WHAT PEOPLE THINK AND SAY ABOUT YOU.  Knowing what each of your target audiences (prospective students, faculty, key stakeholders) think and say about you now, will help you to craft future messages that are honest and truthful and attractive.
  • Brand differentiation is becoming more important – what makes the experience at your college distinctive and worth considering? If you sound like everyone else, why enroll at your institution over another?


To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, visit our Education page or please contact Elizabeth Foley [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.

College marketing logo

Eight Characteristics of Future-Focused Community Colleges

Having an “educated workforce” now requires people to have post-secondary education and targeted skills training in order to be prepared to compete in the ever-growing global economy. And knowing that community colleges educate approximately four in ten of today’s college students, it’s impossible to overlook the potential that community colleges have in changing the face of higher education and also its contribution to the future workforce in the U.S.

Community Colleges Meet Distinctive Regional Needs

Community colleges provide an affordable opportunity for a wide range of prospective students–from those requiring remedial education, to those seeking specific skills to advance their careers, to older adults looking to satisfy long (or short) held interests, to prospective employees wanting tailored training to meet economic needs within their communities, to veterans requiring a range of supports.

With the state of higher education changing every day, it’s time for community colleges to carefully consider their many strengths and weaknesses, to be opportunistic and proactive in addressing challenges.

Challenges for Today and Tomorrow

While there are many opportunities, today’s community colleges also face a series of challenges, among them are some within and some that are outside of their control:

  • Decreasing enrollment;
  • Prospective students’ (often) lack of preparation for the rigors of higher education – and the attendant reputation of community colleges becoming “High School – Part 2”;
  • Diminished funding by state and local governments;
  • Increasing tuition rates;
  • Fewer students completing their college education (for a range of reasons that aren’t merely cost-driven);
  • Increased competition from for-profit educational institutions (including technical and trade institutions) making promises that are difficult to keep;
  • A concern that some community college presidents are approaching retirement age, with a smallish pool of replacements in the wings.

The Eight Characteristics

In our experience with community colleges, those that have the greatest likelihood to succeed are the ones that have:

  • a tangible and thoughtful mission, geared to meet the needs of today’s students, employers, and communities;
  • been flexible in responding to economic and employer needs with training programs that are both skills-based and workplace-sensitive (e.g., teaching teamwork, communications, technological solutions);
  • responded to the demographic composition of its community in all ways possible;
  • a realistic and flexible tuition structure (if/where possible) to appeal to a range of prospective students;
  • worked with its region’s employers to address the employment needs unique to them;
  • collaborations with secondary schools and with other colleges/universities in the area to make the experience as positive and as seamless as possible;
  • community connections, which lead to mutual support of the needs and interests of residents – particularly in areas where a community college is the primary source of higher education;
  • a proactive approach to in gathering market-based information in order to support strategic planning and drive decisions about brand, marketing direction and target markets, programs and courses that hold the greatest potential and those that no longer fit future directions and needs, new and important target market segments, and general guidance for optimizing the college experience for current (and prospective) students.

For years, The Melior Group has been supplying in-depth and quantitative information and working with institutions in the higher education sector to develop marketing and business strategies for enrollment management, responsive programs and courses, and targeted marketing direction. 

To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, visit our Education page or please contact Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.

Sometimes THE Standard measures are not the Only Standard

Take Heed, Dear College Marketer

This is an update to our previous blog post published two years ago.

In the last few years, one of the biggest trends among communications and marketing professionals has been to predict the pace of rapid growth in college and university marketing.  University Business published an article many years ago highlighting the importance for college marketers to measure the success of their future marketing campaigns. Certainly, college marketers have taken heed of that advice. In recent years, The Melior Group has seen higher education market research become one of the fastest growing segments of our business.

What’s the Challenge?

While many of the core tenants of higher education marketing remain intact, universities are tasked with meeting today’s challenges; demographic trends, budget shortfalls, and student financial aid cutbacks have resulted in enrollment declines. It is predicted that these trends will continue.

So What’s A College to Do?

Successful higher education marketers are learning how to step up their marketing initiatives, recognizing that competition for students is on the rise. We’re encountering many more universities looking to refresh their brand identity and get a better handle on the strengths that will attract students to their institutions.

With universities looking for information to support their strategic marketing initiatives, perhaps it’s time to take another look at common practices to measure success of marketing initiatives.

Sometimes THE Standard Isn’t the Only Standard

Traditionally, top-of-mind awareness has been considered THE standard measure of understanding where various colleges rank in the minds of prospective students and parents.

We have learned that traditional measures don’t sufficiently tell the whole story… and it barely amounts to a chapter. There’s so much more to evaluating perceptions of prospective students… such as also including key stakeholders and influencers on college selection. To successfully influence prospects, key community and business leaders, prospective employers of its graduates, we suggest that other measures be included in any evaluation, such as

  • Likelihood to visit
  • Interest in applying
  • Likelihood to recommend
  • Quality of graduates (ready for the workforce)
  • Web/social media activities (both the positive and negative)
  • Alumni giving/engagement
  • Engagement with the community

Successful universities actively look for creative, outside of the box solutions for designing academic programs to appeal to students, demographic outreach and financial options that will bolster their value to more prospective student families and increase enrollment.

Smart marketers are stepping up their marketing strategies by looking at the information that truly matters and are beginning to understand the mix of factors that are important to the specific prospect populations who value what they offer.

For over 30 years, The Melior Group has been supplying in-depth information and working with university clients to help them to think strategically about their marketing efforts. To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, visit our Education page or please contact Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.

melior education higher education marketing

College Brochures (And Traditional Marketing Strategies) Do Not Cut It

Is your marketing to prospective students modernized? The answer might be “Yes” if it involves much more than just brochures. I recently watched a webinar on marketing strategies for prospective students. Aimed towards admissions professionals and delivered by a data collection firm specializing in enrollment marketing and information for printed materials, it was no surprise they presented the brochure as the central focus of a college marketing campaign.

However, the overarching conclusions were simple – and known to smart marketers for some time:

  • Colleges that want to maintain or increase their admissions and enrollment numbers need to think like marketers.
  • The mentality of “build it and they will come” and “of course they’ve heard of us” no longer applies.
  • It’s important to take stock of your institution’s strengths and its reputation/brand identity, the landscape of prospective students and the factors that impact both of these.
  • Colleges that are using multiple channels (i.e. more than brochures) to reach prospective students see a higher ROI than those that use a single channel.

In essence, the webinar presenters noted what The Melior Group has been seeing for the past five years — with budgets being slashed and demands to meet admissions and enrollment targets increasing, traditional marketing strategies no longer cut it.

  • Broad-based generic messages in all formats (brochures, mailers and across social media) only work for institutions with large budgets and little regard of ROI.
  • ROI on segmented and targeted marketing strategies is much higher, but it means getting more sophisticated in how various marketing techniques are used.

I was reminded of the adage “know your customers.” In this case, it’s “know your prospective students,” but it still applies.

  • Understanding the type of student your institution attracts is critical. But even more vital is understanding the type of student you want to attract and ensuring you develop strategies to recruit them specifically.
  • Parents’ opinions are very important to millennials and colleges should have targeted strategies to reach this audience. We wrote a blog post about this just last year. Some colleges have created “parent-to-parent” groups on facebook and other social media that will allow prospective parents the chance to ask questions they might not get the answers to from their children or from a brochure.

The webinar did provide a few interesting statistics I thought I would share.


The prospective college student’s attention span is decreasing while channels increase:

  • The average attention span for a high school student is 8 seconds… down from 10 seconds just five years ago… so there’s less time to make that all-important first impression than before!
  • High school students tend to have more than one email address (typically 3-5!) and they don’t use email all that frequently; but social media reigns supreme… and if you’re not using social media to target prospective students (and parents) you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Marketers of prospective students fall into three big categories:

  • One-third of college marketers have a segmented approach to marketing.
  • Another third used personalized marketing or communications plans.
  • One third are still using a mass marketing strategy to reach prospective students and are likely missing out on opportunities.

For years, The Melior Group has been supplying in-depth information and working with university clients to help them to think strategically about their marketing efforts.

We have found that marketing strategies are most successful when they include: assessments of brand equity and reputation among key audiences, intelligently designed research to develop messaging that will resonate with prospective target segments and critical insights on how to target and attract the students they want.

To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, visit our Education page or please contact Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.

Alumni Pitfalls And Cleanup: Steps To Avoid Costly Mistakes.

The Pitfalls Of Alumni Engagement 

Wait. What? There are pitfalls when alumni are engaged with their alma mater?

The utopian view is that university development/engagement offices are brimming with requests from alumni who want to be actively involved with their alma maters. Reality is a completely different story.

We Shudder To Think That Sometimes Alumni Can Hurt Rather Than Help

At a higher education conference I recently attended, and after talking to a few professionals, I noticed some interesting and similar stories were starting to emerge. It was pretty clear that some alumni who – at first – seemed eager to impart their wisdom and work with current students – had acted of their own accord with unintended consequences and damaging effects as a result.

  • A colleague talked about alumni who agree to advise groups, but who don’t make the time to meet with the students or take their roles as advisors seriously; leaving students ignored at exactly the time they expected assistance.
  • Volunteer alumni advisors were “helping” students by teaching them how to circumvent university risk management policies so they could still hold a previously unapproved event.
  • Despite efforts that a university was making to rebuild its brand and reputation and improve the quality of students admitted, well-intentioned alumni, remembering the “good old days” were inadvertently sabotaging the school’s efforts at recruiting events by perpetuating the old stereotypes (of a non-academic party atmosphere)… leaving students puzzled and administrators wondering how to bridge this gap.

Be Proactive To Mitigate Or Eliminate Their Mistakes In Advance

Of course, alumni are valuable to every university – they enhance small and large-scale development efforts and under the right circumstances can be great marketers for a university. BUT, as the examples above illustrate, alumni can be detrimental or counterproductive to efforts without proper oversight.

The good news is that there were a number of lessons that came from these situations that will allow a university to train, manage and monitor valuable alumni volunteers.

  • Attain buy-in on branding/re-branding efforts so alumni can be effective marketers
  • Train alumni volunteers and student advisors to encourage healthy student-alumni relationships and prevent risk management issues, have back-up plans in place.
  • Know your alumni and suggest the best engagement strategy for individuals
  • Use alumni engagement surveys and student surveys about their experience with Alumni as an excellent tool for learning – and monitoring – their shared experience
  • Redirect alumni efforts when things go sour, to help resolve a situation, but not lose the goodwill of the alum

Proactive university staff are looking to engage alumni in constructive ways and they’re learning how to effectively straddle the line between help and hurt. The Melior Group works with large research institutions, regional public universities and small private colleges to improve alumni relations.

To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, visit our Education page or please contact Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 ext 111 or Linda McAleer at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 ext 104.

College marketing logo

Who Manages The Relationship With Area Employers? Hint: It’s Not Always Career Services

In our previous post in the series – “Closing The Perception Gap: Are Students Trained to Put Theory Into Practice?”- we briefly touched on the importance of advancing communications and partnerships with employers to improve the general perception about a college or universities ability to deliver on career preparation. The focus was primarily on strategies that enable students to put theory into practice. When you consider developing partnerships at the executive level, doors can open that lead to true innovation.

While internships, hands-on training and job placement opportunities are vitally important to hiring rates and alumnae career trajectories, this aspect of the employer to institution relationship is largely handled in career services departments and is almost entirely student-focused. If this is the only way the institution is engaging employers, it’s likely that significant longer-term growth strategies have been missed.

Especially important to regional public universities and small private colleges are the following questions. What local or regional challenges exist that your graduates may be highly qualified to resolve? Will they be able to develop specific skills or knowledge that give them the competitive advantage in the hiring process?

Put Market Research To Work

The Melior Group worked with a quasi-urban school district in helping them to develop and enhance partnerships with universities who, with some tweaking, could develop programs that would deliver top-notch teachers who were ready to step-in and work in the type of environment where the district is located. A true partnership, the school district worked directly with faculty to make a direct and significant positive impact on area schools.

Along the way, The Melior Group made an informed pivot in their research design and adjusted geographic parameters to discover that there were nearby rural area school districts that could also benefit greatly from the same innovative techniques. The graduates, armed with the know-how to handle challenges perceived to be urban would also be well suited to assist specific rural populations.

Original Innovation Serves A Second Purpose

Universities that are new to this type of partnership development will want to re-examine the relationships they currently have with area employers by proactively asking insightful questions. What are these employers looking for from a partnership with a university? What unique quality can the university offer an employer to make the relationship valuable?

Buy-in from the top of the administration – with accountability and responsibility at the Vice Presidential level – to develop healthy relationships with employers can significantly increase hiring rates, elevate the school’s image as an innovative partner and substantially improve the longer-term vitality of the community.

The Melior Group works with large research institutions, regional public universities and small private colleges to improve the perception of their schools’ effectiveness by discovering where gaps in perception exist and drilling into what strategic mix of programmatic, communication and partnership initiatives can allow institutions to more easily deliver on expectations.

To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, visit our Education page or please contact Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.


Are Students Trained To Put Theory Into Practice?

How to improve perceptions and deliver on the promise of a valuable college education is a hot topic in higher education today. Through our experience working with employers and educational institutions, The Melior Group has learned that perceptions around this topic are often off the mark. At the crux of the research, The Melior Group has become aware of what could be called “An Exploration Gap.” In Part 2 of our series we explore the need for schools to help students put theory into practice.

Heavy Dose Of Real World Experience
We have learned that employers prefer candidates who can hit the ground running in their first professional job. What knowledge, abilities and experiences do employers expect this student to possess?

  • Ability to tie classroom knowledge to the professional environment
  • Have developed hard and soft skills such as such as project management, independent problem solving, clear writing and communications.
  • Diverse internship experience(s) working in a range of different areas of their desired industry.

Round Out An Individual’s Value To The Organization

With an increasingly competitive hiring environment and more cross-functional roles, employers want candidates who have been given meaningful opportunities for learning and growth. Academically strong students who have not applied classroom knowledge to the real world are at a disadvantage. Employers expect universities to assist students in obtaining internships and skill sets that help them:

  • Learn the basics of being a part of the workforce.
  • Understand how people problem-solve in a professional setting.
  • Use critical thinking skills that will contribute to their value in an organization.

Approach a new employer with a unique point of view (e.g. having interned with a competitor, a funding source, a client or a vendor.)

Today’s entry-level workforce needs a combination of softer project management skills, harder field-related skills and applied industry knowledge — and employers expect universities to deliver graduates with this combination.

Close The Gap With Communication and Partnership
Many colleges are perceived by employers to be missing the mark in preparing students for these challenges post-graduation. But, the good news is that employers welcome opportunities to learn more and discuss how graduates are being prepared for the workforce.  

In approaching employers, colleges need to demonstrate that internship programs offered are sufficient to meet the needs of both students and prospective employers. As well, the messages they’re delivering to prospective employers should showcase student internship success stories and the programs being offered (industry-relevant) and the successful outcomes from those programs.

Human Resource departments go to great expense but are often unable to find qualified talent that meets their needs. Employers actively seek to forge relationships with schools who are interested to develop students who can fulfill these roles. Colleges and Universities can take steps to develop partnerships that may include guest speakers, internship, training and job placement opportunities. Ongoing communications with employers are critical towards closing the perception gap.

The Melior Group works with large research institutions, regional public universities and small private colleges to improve the perception of their schools’ effectiveness by discovering where gaps in perception exist and drilling into what strategic mix of programmatic, communication and partnership initiatives can allow institutions to more easily deliver on expectations.

To learn more about our work with colleges and universities, visit our Education page or please contact Elizabeth Foley at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x111 or Linda McAleer at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x104.

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